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Note: I wrote this up last week, but never posted it here, so here it is still in time for this week's parsha.
After the disruption caused by Hurricane Sandy to my part of Long Island, the regular Monday night class with Rav Goldvicht resumed. At tonight's class he mentioned several concepts linked to Jewish marriage. . One of them is insight into the three meetings at a well recounted in TaNaCh that resulted in betrothals.
The first one was recounted in the text we read last Shabbos: Eliezer's quest to find a bride for Yitzchak. The well is what served as his test of whether or not the girl he encounters will demonstrate the trait of kindness that distinguishes the ways of Avraham. The test was to see if the girl would not only willingly share her water r with him but also offer to give the camels to drink.
While that is a familiar story to most of us, Rav Goldvicht explained that it was not merely the kindness of the act but the sensitivity displayed. Eliezer's request was to drink water from the girl's own pitcher. He then watched to see what she would do with the water he left over. While she may be disinclined to drink from the same vessel, it would be somewhat insulting to spill out the water he had come in contact with. So the solution was to offer it to the camels and then to follow up by giving them as much water as they required.
The second couple to meet at a well was Yaakov and Rachel. Rachel was shepherding her sheep, and came to the well for their water. A similar situation occurred for the third couple: Moshe and Tzipporah. Why does a well work so well for these occasion? From a purely pragmatic perspective, it makes sense that the source of water would be the gathering place in an arid climate. However, there is more to it.
There are three natural sources of water: a cistern, a spring, and a well. The cistern only receives water from rain. A spring brings up water from the ground. The well is the only source that combines both water sources, bringing up the groundwater but also receiving rainwater. So a well is the most apt symbol for the marriage that brings together two different people in a new combination.
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